were 11,965 laboratory-confirmed flu-related hospitalizations reported
from October 1 to January 20. The number of people infected with
influenza is believed to be much higher because not everyone goes to
their doctor when they are sick, nor do doctors test every patient.
to those scary stats, the World Health Organization estimates that annual
result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe
illness globally and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths.
the fever and aches may feel terrible, most of us don't die from the
flu. So how exactly does this common illness lead to so many dying?
and its complications disproportionately affect people who are 65 and
older. They account for 80% of the deaths," said Dr. William Schaffner,
an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.
usual flu death is a person who gets influenza, gets all that
inflammation in their chest, and then has the complication of
pneumonia," explained Schaffner, who added that this is a "long,
an infection that causes the small air sacs of the lungs to fill with
fluid or pus. Though this is the most common route to death, flu can be
fatal for more unusual reasons.
of the systemic symptoms that any of us have with influenza -- the
fever, the aches and pains, the sense of exhaustion -- all of those are
part of (our body's) response to the virus," said Schaffner. The
symptoms we experience are an inflammatory response to the immune
system "soldiers" that our body sends to fight any pathogen, he said.
the war analogy, we all know there is incidental damage that occurs
during the course of a war," said Schaffner, and so the flu can also
take a perfectly healthy person "and put them in the ER in 24 to 48
stimulates an immune response in everyone's body, but for some people,
this natural response can be "overwhelming," noted Schaffner. "Young
robust people can have such an overwhelming response that it's called a
cytokine storm." Cytokines -- proteins that are created as part of the
inflammatory response -- create a "storm" in the body, explained
Schaffner: "And this cytokine storm can actually lead to sepsis in the
is one example of that happening. He died unexpectedly in December at
UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh after a bout with the flu.
Baughman, a college student, worked two jobs and often posted pictures
of himself at the gym on social media. The cause of his death, as
reported by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner, was influenza,
septic shock and multiple organ failure.
of a heart attack are increased sixfold during the first seven days
after a flu infection, a new study published Wednesday in the New
England Journal of Medicine found.
The study looked at nearly 20,000 cases of flu in Ontario adults age 35
risk may be higher for older adults, said Dr. Jeff Kwong, lead author
of the study and a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative
Sciences and Public Health Ontario. Heart attack occurs when blood flow
to the heart is abruptly cut off; this is also called acute myocardial
a few days usually elapse between getting sick and getting a lab test,
Kwong said "the increased risk is probably within the first 10 days or
so after exposure to the virus."
research, which identified 364 hospitalizations for acute myocardial
infarction among the flu cases studied, also showed a stronger
association for influenza B than influenza A. "We would have needed
more cases to determine if the difference was real or just a chance
finding," said Kwong.
the new study did not identify the reasons why flu might lead to heart
attack, Kwong and his co-authors theorize that infectious illness may
cause inflammation, stress and constriction of blood vessels, which
increases blood pressure.
Read More Interesting News
How the flu turns deadly